Mike Shanahan is a veteran who has been to more than his share of dances.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Mitt Romney wasn't the only one conceding this week.
Mike Shanahan beat the former Massachusetts governor by a few days.
In case you missed it, the orange-tinted mentor of the Washington Redskins, who was once a two-time Super Bowl winner in Denver when John Elway was piloting his team, gave up on his season last Sunday after his current club failed to hold serve during a 21-13 setback to the lowly Carolina Panthers.
Understand football is the most emotional of games. You only play it once a week, 16 times a year so putting a microphone in front of anyone minutes after a gut-wrenching setback probably isn't the best time to judge them.
That said, Shanahan is a veteran who has been to more than his share of dances. So when he taps out, it's more than likely a credible admission being made without the benefit of a cooling-off period.
"You lose a game like that, now you're playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come," Shanahan said.
"I'll get a chance to evaluate players and see where we're at," he continued. "Obviously, we're not out of it statistically, but now we find out what type of character we've got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season."
Shanahan isn't incorrect. The Redskins are in a rebuilding process but a veteran coach who is "leading" an organization which has struggled in recent years and now has a promising rookie quarterback, along with four home games left on the schedule, shouldn't be raising any white flags, at least in public.
You think the 'Skins season-ticket holders, who get gouged at every turn by unpopular owner Daniel Snyder, are happy about being informed they are paying to see four more games so Shanahan, a guy who is 14-27 since taking over their team, can evaluate things?
The future is what matters for Washington. Robert Griffin III is a superlative talent but he's raw player, relying on the read-option right now, a gimmick which opposing defenses are quickly catching up too.
This team needs time but it's a delicate balance, one that needs to inspire hope and confidence while that time is passing through the hourglass.
All Shanahan could muster on Monday was back pedaling.
"I never said any time since I've been here we're gonna play young players," Shanahan volunteered despite the fact no one accused him of even implying that. "We're always gonna play the people that give us the best chance to win. That's what we're gonna do.
"I've never changed, never have wavered," the coach who protests too much continued. "I'm not saying I gave the perfect quote. The only thing I was disappointed, that if I've got somewhat of a relationship with somebody, then at least give me the courtesy to say hey, what did you mean by this, instead of just going one direction. I was never contacted by anybody last evening."
Shanahan's players also ran to his defense.
"I thought he clarified exactly what he meant, how it wasn't portrayed the way it needed to be," middle linebacker London Fletcher told ESPN. "He let us know exactly how he feels about this season, how he feels about the guys in this locker room. Coach Shanahan's a proven winner, a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach. He's not a person who gives up on a season."
Spin, of course, is a cottage industry in D.C. and blaming the messenger is at the top of the syllabus for Spinning 101.
No matter what coach Shanahan said or how he said it -- we all know what he meant, even the players who like and support him.
Sadly at this stage of his career every time Shanahan coaches a game Elway's legend grows a little larger.
There are only two real untouchables in Washington these days, RG3 and Barack Obama.
And unlike Obama, who got a four-year extension from the American people on Tuesday despite under performing as president, Shanahan won't be given the same courtesy from his trigger-happy, results-oriented owner.
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THE GAMES (All Times Eastern)
Indianapolis (5-3) at Jacksonville (1-7), Thursday, 8:20 p.m.
LINE: Colts by 3
THE SKINNY: Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning was 3-13 during his first season in Indianapolis. All that stands between Andrew Luck and doubling that win total in just his ninth game as a professional is the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, who are mired in a five-game losing streak since recording their only win of the season, a 22-17 triumph at Indianapolis back in Week 3.
PREDICTION: Colts 23, Jaguars 14
Oakland (3-5) at Baltimore (6-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Ravens by 7 1/2
THE SKINNY: Things don't look promising for the Raiders this week. Oakland will be visiting a Baltimore team which has won 14 consecutive regular- season games in the Charm City and has never lost to the Raiders on its home field (4-0).
PREDICTION: Ravens 30, Raiders 14
Denver (5-3) at Carolina (2-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Broncos by 4
THE SKINNY: John Fox, who spent nine seasons (2002-10) in Carolina as head coach, returns to the Queen City with Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Manning needs just two touchdown passes to surpass Hall of Famer Dan Marino (420) for the second most in NFL history. Manning, who also has three TD passes in five straight games, registered is 48th game-winning drive in Denver's win over Cincinnati last Sunday, passing Marino for the most in the NFL since 1970.
PREDICTION: Broncos 24, Panthers 20
NY Giants (6-3) at Cincinnati (3-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Giants by 4
THE SKINNY: Giants quarterback Eli Manning will try to bounce back from a disappointing performance in a loss against Pittsburgh last Sunday, his first setback in nine games against an AFC team. The Bengals need to build on the success of their two top players, wide receiver A.J., Green, who has a TD catch in seven consecutive games, and defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who has 14 1/2 sacks since the 2011 season.
PREDICTION: Giants 21, Bengals 17
Tennessee (3-6) at Miami (4-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Dolphins by 6
THE SKINNY: Miami seeks its fourth straight home win over the Titans, a team coming off an embarrassing five-turnover performance in a 51-20 drubbing at the hands of the Chicago Bears. Titans owner Bud Adams put his entire organization on notice that he will be evaluating everyone after the blowout and coach Mike Munchak will probably make the move back to second-year quarterback Jake Locker, who has missed five straight games with a dislocated his non-throwing shoulder.
PREDICTION: Dolphins 24, Titans 23
Detroit (4-4) at Minnesota (5-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Lions by 2
THE SKINNY: Two teams moving in opposite directions will meet when the struggling Minnesota Vikings play host to the resurgent Detroit Lions in an NFC North matchup. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has fallen apart in recent weeks while Lions signal-caller Matthew Stafford has heated up, reaching 10,000 career passing yards during a win over the Jags last Sunday. Stafford reached the mark in just 37 games, the second fastest in history to Kurt Warner, who did it in 36.
PREDICTION: Lions 28, Vikings 13
Buffalo (3-5) at New England (5-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Patriots by 11
THE SKINNY: The Patriots' top-ranked offense, which averages 440.8 yards per game and 32.8 points, gets back to work after a successful trip to London and a bye against a Bills team trying to make the AFC East more interesting. Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick usually has some success against New England and will be aiming for a fourth consecutive game with 300-plus passing yards versus the Pats.
PREDICTION: Patriots 34, Bills 17
Atlanta (8-0) at New Orleans (3-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Falcons by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: MVP candidate Matt Ryan leads his unbeaten Falcons into the Big Easy. Atlanta is 8-0 for the first time in franchise history and is just the 15th team to start with eight consecutive wins since 1978 when the NFL went to a 16-game schedule. Ryan ranks third in the NFL with 103.0 passer rating and Atlanta is a perfect 29-0 when the Boston College product has a 100-plus rating (6-0 in 2012). New Orleans will try to ride its own star, QB Drew Brees, who is 10-2 against the Falcons since joining the Saints in 2006.
PREDICTION: Falcons 28, Saints 24
San Diego (4-4) at Tampa Bay (4-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Buccaneers by 3
THE SKINNY: The all of a sudden very potent Bucs shoot for their first ever win against San Diego, which is 5-0 all-time versus Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers have scored 28-plus points in team-record four consecutive games behind Josh Freeman, who has thrown 11 touchdowns versus one interception over that span, and "Muscle Hampster" Doug Martin, who became the first player in NFL history with three TD runs of 40-plus yards while ringing up a franchise record 251 yards and four TDs in Oakland last Sunday.
"I've got to step back and just look at it," said Martin, who grew up in nearby Stockton, California. "It's surreal. I was just doing my job out there."
Martin, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October, has 486 scrimmage yards in his past two games, the most by a player in a two-game span in a season since Walter Payton in 1977.
"What can I say about him that hasn't already been said and will be exalted upon later," said Buccaneers veteran defensive back Ronde Barber. "He's turned into a heck of a player here these past two weeks. Just the way he's handled the pressure that he's had to be the main guy here in our offense, that's impressive."
PREDICTION: Buccaneers 30, Chargers 20
NY Jets (3-5) at Seattle (5-4), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: Seahawks by 6 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Jets try to get it right in Seattle where they have won two of their last three in the series. Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson is 4-0 at home this season, however, and has yet to be picked off while throwing nine TDs in those games.
PREDICTION: Seahawks 21, Jets 17
Dallas (3-5) at Philadelphia (3-5), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Cowboys by 1
THE SKINNY: Call this one the Desperation Bowl as two 3-5 NFC East teams square off. The scuffling Eagles will be without 80 percent of their starting offensive line against a Dallas team led by Tony Romo, who typically surges in November. Romo is 19-3 in his career during Turkey month.
PREDICTION: Cowboys 21, Eagles 17
St. Louis (3-5) at San Francisco (6-2), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: 49ers by 11 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Rams seems to be heading south and probably face an untenable matchup here. San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith is 6-1 as a starter in his career against St. Louis and is 9-1 in his past 10 starts versus NFC West foes. The Rams could get a boost from the return of star slot receiver Danny Amendola, who has been out with a collarbone injury.
PREDICTION: 49ers 34, Rams 13
Houston (7-1) at Chicago (7-1), Sunday, 8:25 p.m.
LINE: Bears by 1
THE SKINNY: The top dogs in the AFC, the Houston Texans, visit the Chicago Bears, who lead the NFL with a mind-blowing plus-16 turnover ratio. The Texans will be aiming for the first 8-1 start in team history and a 4-0 mark away from South Texas against a Bears defense loaded with playmakers. Chicago leads the NFL with a plus-116 point differential (236 points scored, 120 points allowed) and Houston is second with a plus-100 mark (237, 137).
The Bears D has seven interception returns for TDs, the most in NFL history through eight games. Cornerback Charles Tillman, a leading contender for NFC Defensive Player of the Year, forced four fumbles last week in a win at Tennessee and leads the NFL with seven forced fumbles on the year. He is also tied for the league lead with teammate Lance Briggs with two interception return for TDs.
Houston has its own Defensive Player of the Year candidate in J.J. Watt, who leads the NFL with 10 1/2 sacks and is the only player in the league with at least 10 sacks and 10 passes defensed.
"We like where we are right now," said Chicago head coach Lovie Smith. "I know this defense is doing some things that no other defense has done that I've been a part of. It's special what we have going at the halfway point."
PREDICTION: Bears 21, Texans 20
Kansas City (1-7) at Pittsburgh (5-3), Monday, 8:35 p.m.
LINE: Steelers by 12 1/2
THE SKINNY: The lowly Chiefs set up as road kill for a Steelers team which has won its past 14 straight at home on Monday Night Football. The big news in Kansas City this week was coach Romeo Crennel, who removed himself as the team's de facto defensive coordinator in order to spend more time with the his struggling offense. Crennel had been juggling head coaching and coordinator duties since taking over on an interim basis when Todd Haley was fired last December. Gary Gibbs takes over as defensive coordinator.